Drinking Deeply

Friday, August 26, 2005 at 11:09 PM

The Binding of Isaac

Today during Bible study we looked at the Binding of Isaac.

A few things jumped out at me that I wanted to share:

Genesis Ch. 22

1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I."

This passage comes after God’s promises to Abraham, and after the establishment of the covenant of circumcision with him. All that follows is a test, used to confirm Abraham’s faith, and not, as we will see, works used to earn salvation.

2He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.

I thought it was simply amazing the immediate obedience that Abraham had. God commanded him to do something, and bam "so Abraham rose early in the morning...” Today in the Bible study we talked about how it was such a difficult sacrifice for Abraham and all that. Was it? I am not entirely sure. I certainly do not see it in the text, and the only possible support we may have for a concept like that was how Abraham wasn’t explicit with what he was going to do. But that may just be an indicator of his great faith. I personally just see Abraham’s great faith in this passage. God tells him to do something, and he gets up and does it, trusting all the while that God would provide.

And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you."

I must confess I'm not sure about this passage. Is Abraham lying to the young men about what he's going to do, or does he really believe that they will come again back to them? Whatever it was, I do see that Abraham sees this sacrifice as worship. Wow. Can I see a sacrifice of something of great value as worship? I know in the past it was always very painful and very difficult. God grant me the faith of Abraham!

6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.

I was kind of amused by this verse, it's like "So then Abraham laid the wood on Isaac his son and he took in his hand the fire and the knife... and then they went off” FAKE! Haha =)

7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.

God will provide! I also thought it was interesting that it said that God will provide "for himself" and not “God will provide for us” even though the sacrifice was demanded of Abraham. We see in Hebrews 11 a slight picture of what this faith looked like:

17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 19He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Abraham knew that God was going to name his offspring through Isaac, but still offered him up, trusting that God would provide, considering that God was even able to raise him from the dead!

9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 12He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."

I'm very interested by the "for now I know you fear God" section. Does it mean that God did not know that Abraham feared Him? But that would contradict God's omnipotence. Maybe it's the angel of the Lord that now knows, but then there's the "withheld your son, your only son, from me" part. I think it has to do with what James references in chapter 2:

21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"-- and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

This is our classic "justification by works" passage, used by many, many cults who deny justification by faith alone. What do we see here? James says that Abraham was "justified by works." But notice also that it goes back to the "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness" which is very much justification by faith from Genesis 15:6! Same verse cited by Romans in case anyone was wondering.

Thus what light does James shed on God knowing that Abraham feared him? It shows that Abraham justified his faith, or he proved true his faith, in his action. He proved true his fear to God so that God now acknowledged that his faith was real and living, as opposed to a simple dead acknowledgement. Abraham's action fulfilled the Scriptures and proved true what it was saying. Abraham was tested and passed the test. Thus the passage references the fact that God now saw that Abraham proved true his faith.

Did he know that Abraham was going to do so? Was He in direct control of Abraham all the while in accordance to His sovereignty? I would say absolutely, but that’s a whole different topic. Whatever our answer to this is, it cannot be a denial of God’s omnipotence (which is Open Theism, something that we should all avoid)

13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.

Abraham, our dear prophet (Genesis, 20:7), was right once again. He said back in v. 8 that God would provide a sacrifice, and God does. God provides a sacrifice for Himself. I remember in Hebrew the words for “The LORD will provide” are YHWY yirah. We hear it in songs nowadays as Jehovah Jira. “God provides” for short. God provides, or literally, God will see it. How comforting!

15And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." 19So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

Finally, we see God’s great promises of blessings in reward for obedience. Yes, that’s correct. We are justified by faith alone, but our rewards are for our works too. God blesses Abraham abundantly (stars of heaven) for what he has done in obedience. Abraham obeyed God in not withholding his son, and this results in blessings. Not for Abraham, but for his offspring. Does this sort of look like a precursor to our rewards being in heaven? Another interesting thing of note is God’s promise that “all the nations of the earth” will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring. (This is referenced in Romans as well in the salvation to the Gentiles). And these rewards are a promise, because God has sworn it upon the highest thing it is possible to swear by: Himself.

What does Abraham do in this passage? Abraham obeys God. What does this show? This shows Abraham’s holy fear of God. What does God do? God tests Abraham, and then God provides a sacrifice on behalf of Abraham. God blesses Abraham and promises that through his offspring (which will number among the stars and sands) the nations will be blessed.

Finally, one cannot read any passage of the Bible without pointing to Christ (or God) in some way shape or form. This passage is replete with such references.

I often hear that the binding of Isaac as a precursor to God's offering of Christ. They point to how God asks Abraham to provide his only son whom he loves and they say that it points to God's future sacrifice of Christ, His only son whom he loves. They also point to Isaac taking up the wood for the sacrifice representing Christ taking up his cross.

While I do agree that Christ was God's only son, whom He loves, I honestly see much more Christ in God's provision of the ram. A sacrifice is demanded of Abraham - A sacrifice is demanded of us (our very lives!). God provides a sacrifice for Abraham without prompting, to satisfy this demand - God provides a sacrifice for us without prompting, to satisfy this demand. Plus tack on all the rest of the OT law about sacrifices and how they all point to Christ (Hebrews) and it seems like a decent point that it is the ram, and not Isaac that points to Christ.

We also see Christ in Abraham’s obedience, how his obedience secured blessings, just like Christ’s perfect obedience secured eternal life.

Praise be to the Father above who has blessed us with His bountiful Word, which convicts us, condemns us, and finally points us to Christ, the eternal King, who grants us life!

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Drop a thought